Memory probes: Exploring retrospective user experience through traces of use on cherished objects

Wenn Chieh Tsai (Lead / Corresponding author), Elise Van Den Hoven

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)
    215 Downloads (Pure)


    Our daily interactions with objects can not only leave traces of use on the objects but also leave memories in our minds. These human traces on objects are potential cues that can trigger our autobiographical memories and connect us to social networks. The first aim of this paper is to demonstrate what might be a suitable method of inquiry into the way materials can enrich dialogues about remembered experiences derived from human traces left on cherished possessions. The second aim is to investigate how the accumulation of human traces on objects influences people’s remembering and usage. The design of our research artifacts, Memory Probes, was situated in relation to three spectra of paired values: (1) the familiarity and strangeness of tool use, (2) the definiteness and ambiguity of data capture, and (3) the objective and subjective reality of interpretation. Our field study revealed a transactive nature between traces of interaction with possessions and memories in the owners’ minds. It also informed us of how gradual and curiosity-driven understanding could become a methodological nuance when we are empathetically engaged in a collaborative way of knowing with other participants. To conclude, several implications for designing products that can participate in our everyday reminiscing and meaning-making are proposed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)57-72
    Number of pages16
    JournalInternational Journal of Design
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2018


    • Cherished objects
    • Design probe
    • Participatory inquiry paradigm
    • Remembering experiences
    • Retrospective user experience
    • Traces of use

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Strategy and Management
    • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design
    • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
    • Marketing


    Dive into the research topics of 'Memory probes: Exploring retrospective user experience through traces of use on cherished objects'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this